De Akokán, the name of the co-led ensemble of the guitarist and songwriter Pavel Urkiza & the reedist Ricardo Pons, means “from the heart” in the Yoruba language. Pavel was born in Ukraine to parents of Cuban descent, and has produced much of his creative output from Spain. He has been heralded as a “maestro” by his peers in the Afro-Caribbean music community, and specializes in a style he helped develop called filin progresivo. In Pavel’s words: “I started to discover new codes, new fountains from which to drink, new colors — and I came to perceive music like painting — beyond the notes are the textures.” This is a music that incorporates elements of jazz, and rhythms from West Africa, Brazil, the Mediterranean, and India, which Pavel was exposed to in Lavapiés, an immigrant neighborhood in Madrid.
In the early nineties, Pavel teamed up with the Cuban singer Gema Corredera to form the Gema & Pavel duo, whose pioneering music the Miami New Times described as, “a post-Cold War fusion rooted in their island upbringing and marked by the émigré experience.” Pavel has also collaborated with Omara Portuondo, Angelique Kidjo, Alejandro Sanz, Tito Puente and many others.
Ricardo’s collaborative involvement in De Akokán pushes Pavel’s filin progresivo in a new direction. Ricardo was educated in New York (he holds a bachelor’s degree from City College and a M.A. from Queens College) and has performed with a breadth of artists including Chick Corea, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Mario Bauza, and Willie Colon. His interests lies in various expansions of Puerto Rican traditional music, which he explores as the Musical Director of Viento de Agua and a member of the Puerto Sax Quartet.